Monday 11 Mar 2013


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This is a combined restoration/remodel of an old Kyo-machiya (Kyoto-style traditional urban dwelling) in Kyoto, Japan. It was built circa 1935 and had been empty for the last ten years. It is composed of the original structure (omoya) and a first-floor extension circa 1965-80.

The floor plan and the finishing materials changed significantly through a series of haphazard modifications. However, there also existed some attractive elements that effectively captured the "timeline" of the house as it passed through this series of renovations. In particular, the L-shaped addition created a novel linkage between the omoya and garden which would rarely be seen in a newly-built house. The clients lived in San Francisco for 15 years prior to moving to Kyoto. From the onset, they had a clear demand for a home that combined authentic and aesthetically rewarding old elements with simple, undisruptive new ones.

In light of these demands, an approach to the project was developed: to re-realize these impromptu renovations and effectively incorporate them into a "next life" for the structure. These included; the reinforcement and repair of damaged portions; capturing the feeling of an accumulated timeline; a sunken floor (doma) transition from omoya to garden; and utilizing the extension area for "daily service" (e.g., kitchen, dining, bathroom).

There exist two typical approaches to remodelling Kyo-machiya. One is to preserve only the basic structure and modernize the interior. The second is to regard the structure as a traditional "artefact" and restore it to its original state; both share the perspective of focusing on one point in time (the present or the origin), and not considering the passage of time running through the home. Many Kyo-machiya built in the early 20th century have undergone numerous renovations over the years, and these events are generally not acknowledged in the new design.

Unadmirable remodellings are often encountered, but they are indeed a part of the accumulated architectural history. If we can gently accept this timeline as valid, and "layer on" a new life rather than wiping an old one away perhaps we could utilize this approach to enrich the broader architectural landscape as well.

"TIMELINE Machiya" was named by the client to represent the passing of time, both of the structure itself, but also of the project, from the initial consulting through to the construction and finishing. 


Q-Architecture Laboratory